Cristina Stancioiu (Ph.D., UCLA, 2009) is Assistant Professor of Art History at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. Her research explores issues of cultural identity and dialogue between Byzantium, Europe, and the Muslim world from the period of the Crusades through the seventeenth century, spanning a diversity of traditional artistic media and genres, and focusing on theories of identity, ritual behavior, gender display, and pre-Modern Colonialism. She is now developing a book project on portraiture in Mediterranean areas with diverse populations, exploring how secular portraiture reveals developments in intercultural identity, community, subversion, social class, and gender. Recent awards include fellowships from the American Philosophical Society, International Center of Medieval Art, and the Council of American Overseas Research Centers.
Portraiture in the Eastern Mediterranean, 13th-16th Centuries
A genre not native to the Mediterranean islands of Crete, Rhodes, and Cyprus, secular portraiture was introduced with foreign hegemony and exploded across all social strata and traditional media, including mural painting, sculpture, and ceramics. These islands harbored Byzantine communities under European rule and ports-of-call on the east-west trade route between Europe and the Levant. Traditional disciplines each contributed to—but cannot exhaust—the Mediterranean character of the integration occurring on these islands, which have been primarily studied in light of their insularity, rather than their connectedness. Interdisciplinary at its core, this study shows how issues of interculturality, community, social class, gender, and shifts in identity can be fully interrogated through art, thus demonstrating the fundamental role of the visual arts to Mediterranean Studies, and the centrality of Byzantium and meta-Byzantine developments to our understanding of pre-modern cultural history and identity formation. This study reveals how ethnic, religious, and aesthetic identities maintain their integrity even as they merge towards a pan-Mediterranean culture. The visual evidence from the islands reveals a wider scope of portraiture reaching the lower social levels and unraveling (auto)biographic evidence. These large-scale, personal and individualized images must be integrated into the history of European portraiture, the pre-modern pursuit of the individual, and the study of the Self.